Water Quality Articles | Written By Actual Experts – Tagged "GenX" – Hydroviv
GenX Contamination In Drinking Water:  What You Need To Know

GenX Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

****Updated November 18, 2017 to include water filter performance data ****

There has been some major news coverage about "GenX" and other pre GenX perfluoroalkyl chemicals contamination in North Carolina.  Whenever something like this makes it into the news, the facts can quickly become obscured, so the aim of this article is to summarize a few key things to know about GenX and other perfluoroalkyl chemicals in drinking water.

What Is GenX?

GenX chemical structure Chemours

GenX is a trade name for a chemical (deduced structure shown above) that went into production around 2010 as an alternative to a perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8) in the synthesis of  PTFE (ie Teflon).  GenX is therefore essential for the production of common household products including non-stick pans, firefighting foam, and common outdoor fabrics (e.g. Gore-Tex).

Why Do We Care About GenX And Chemicals Like It?

It's pretty simple:  1.  These chemicals are known to be toxic (and this link too)  2.  They are persistent in the environment, which means that they don't break down, and can contaminate water far from the contamination source.

Is GenX Regulated By EPA?

No.  Which means that there are no regulatory limits, and municipalities are not required to test for it.  There are a lot of chemicals that fall into this category.

Why Is This Such A Big Problem In North Carolina?

A company called Chemours (which was originally spun out of Dupont) produces GenX at a plant in Fayetteville, NC.  Discharge from this plant contaminates the Cape Fear watershed.  

What Are Official Positions On The Situation?

Dupont:  In summary, they are saying that even though Chemours is a Dupont spinoff company, they have no comment because it's now a separate entity.

Chemours:  Lips are largely sealed right now

Municipalities in Southeast North Carolina:  "We are in full compliance of Federal Regulations"

Hydroviv:  No kidding.  You can't be out of compliance if it's not a regulated chemical.

How To Remove Or Filter GenX And Other Fluoroalkyl Compounds From Drinking Water

At Hydroviv, we custom-build water filters using different technology than reverse osmosis.  Basically, we custom-formulate filter cartridges with filtration media that best matches the problems in each customer's water.  There's a lot of proprietary stuff behind what we do, but in the name of transparency we wanted to give more information that we'd normally give about what we are doing to formulate filters for highly soluble compounds like GenX.

1.  We formulate our submicron carbon blocks with a blend of activated carbons and elevated levels of a highly porous metal oxide sorbant blend that other fluoroalkyl compounds have been shown to stick to in the scientific literature. 

2.  We tighten up the pore sizes of our filters, which slows down the flow and increases the amount of time that the water is in contact with the filtration media, thus improving the overall effectiveness of the filter, when compared to granular or powdered media.

**** Update 11/18/2017**** Our under sink and fridge line water filters have been independently tested by researchers at North Carolina State University and both filters have been shown to remove GenX to undetectable levels.  

Filters with these considerations can be ordered through our product's page, and our experts will automatically use your shipping address to know if you are part of the impacted region.  

We recommend that people take advantage of our "Help no matter what" approach to technical support.  We have been staffing our live chat line through extended hours to answer questions that people may have.  If our chat line is busy, you can drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.  We will answer as soon as we can.

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Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs): What You Need To Know

Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs): What You Need To Know

Stephanie Angione, Ph.D. |  Scientific Contributor

What are Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs)?

Fluorinated substances include a diverse range of chemical compounds that all contain at least one fluorine (F) atom. These substances vary in the amount of fluorine atoms they contain, and those that are highly fluorinated, or contain many F atoms per carbon (C) atom are referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances. These highly fluorinated substances are unique in their hydrophobic (water repellent) and lipophobic/oleophobic (fat/oil repellent) properties, as well as their general chemical and thermal stability.  

These properties have made PFASs common in many types of applications, including creation of non-stick cooking surfaces, stain and water resistant coatings on fabrics, creation of oil/fat resistant food packaging and also in foam materials used to fight and prevent fires. Additionally, the automotive, aerospace, and construction industries have widely used these fluorinated substances for various applications due to their low friction properties.

Common PFASs include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which have been used in the production of Teflon and Scotchgard respectively. The manufacturer 3M phased out the production of PFOS in 2002 and the EPA helped manufacturers of PFOA phase out production completely in 2015.

How Do PFASs Contaminate The Environment?

PFASs are deemed “emerging contaminates” by the EPA; meaning that they are chemicals or materials thought to pose a potential threat to health and the environment, but haven't yet been regulated. PFASs contribute to environmental contamination largely due to the fact that they are highly resistant to degradation processes, and thus persist for many years in water, air and can enter the food chain via bioaccumulation in certain animal species.  

The primary sources of human exposure to PFASs include:

  • Consumption of contaminated drinking water
  • Consumption of food that is packaged in materials containing PFASs, which have included fast food containers, microwave popcorn bags. (Most food manufactures have stopped using PFASs in these types of packaging).
  • Consumption of food that contains PFASs, including fish and shellfish
  • Contact (hand to mouth) with clothing, carpets or other fabrics that have been treated with PFASs. (Skin exposure to PFASs on their own does not cause significant absorption into the body).
  • Industrial exposure to workers who manufacture of utilize PFASs containing products

Since PFOS and PFOA are two of the most common PFASs, exposure to these compounds is widespread. These PFASs, as well as the many others, accumulate in the human body and are only broken down very slowly. These compounds take anywhere from 2-9 years to be eliminated. Thus, most people in the US have detectable amounts of PFASs in their blood.  However, due to the global stewardship program established by the EPA to phase out all production of PFASs by 2015, the overall blood concentration in the US population is declining.

What Are The Health Effects Of PFASs?

Although there is no consistent medical evidence of the health effects of PFASs in animals and humans, a number of adverse effects have been demonstrated in both animal and epidemiological human studies. The main effects of PFASs on health in animal studies of rodents exposed to PFOS and PFOA include changes in liver function, hormone levels and adverse effects to developing fetuses. The reported effects on fetal development include low birth weight and length, delayed growth and neonatal mortality.

The discovery of persistent contamination of drinking water sources with PFOA in West Virginia and Ohio prompted a large epidemiological study called the C8 Health Project. The study included nearly 70,000 individuals who had elevated PFOA levels in blood- approximately 500% higher than the representative population. The study found statistical correlation between elevated blood concentrations of PFOA with ulcerative colitis, impaired thyroid function, high blood cholesterol, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and preeclampsia.

How do PFASs Contaminate Drinking Water?

In 2016 the EPA released a lifetime health advisory for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. This advisory indicates that the individual or combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS in water should be less than 70 parts per trillion (ppt). This EPA guideline is not an enforced limit- it simply provides guidance to local public health officials.  However, under EPA guidelines issued in 2012, water systems are required to monitor. levels of PFOA and PFOS. The results of this monitoring effort can be found on the National Contaminant Occurrence Database. Together with data collected under the monitoring effort and established assessments of human health effects, the EPA will make a regulatory determination to include PFOA and PFOS in national drinking water regulations.

Communities that have sources of drinking water contaminated with PFASs are typically localized and associated with a specific industrial facility or area used for firefighting. Both PFOA and PFOS have been found in drinking water systems due to this kind of localized contamination. A 2016 study of drinking water in the US found unsafe levels of PFASs at the EPA minimum level of 70 ppt in 194 out of 4,864 water sources in 33 states. Of these states, 75% of the contaminated water sources were found in order of frequency: CA, NJ, NC, AL, FL, PA, OH, NY, GA, MN, AZ, MA, and IL. Water sources with the highest levels of PFAS contamination were near industrial sites and military bases, and one of the major contributing sources was found to be firefighting foam.

How Do I Find Out If My Drinking Water Is Contaminated With PFASs?

If you are concerned about PFOA, PFOS or other PFASs contaminants in your drinking water and are served by a public water system, your local water supplier is required to issue a Consumer Confidence Report that lists contaminant levels in the water supply. If you have a private well, a laboratory can test your drinking water.

If you get water from a household well, the local health department should have information about ground water quality and contaminants of concern, but it is often a good idea to have your water tested by a certified laboratory for PFAS contaminants. The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) can provide additional resources in your local area.

How Can I Remove PFASs From My Drinking Water?

Some public water systems employ methods (like granulated or powdered activated carbon) to reduce PFOA and PFOS at the municipal level.  Higher end home water filters that use highly porous activated carbon as part of the active filtration media blend or reverse osmosis can remove these common PFASs from drinking water.

Hydroviv makes it our business to help you better understand your water. As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters. Reach out by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!

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Digging Into The Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database

Digging Into The Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder   

This past week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a website where people punch in their zip code, and view contaminants found in their water.  As a company that uses water quality data to optimize each customer’s water filter, we applaud EWG for putting in the enormous amount of time & effort to build the database so the public can learn about their water.  Unfortunately, we are seeing that these data are being used to generate inflammatory headlines, which can leave consumers confused and unnecessarily panicked.   

We will be updating this blog post as more questions come in.  If you have your own question, please reach out to us (hello@hydroviv.com).  One of our water nerds will do their best to get back to you very quickly, even if it’s outside of our business hours.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Updated July 31, 2017

Are All Potential Contaminants Listed In The EWG Tap Water Database?  

No.  The EWG Tap Water Database pulls data from municipal measurements, but municipalities are only required to test for certain things.  Simply put, you can’t detect what you don’t look for.  One example of this can be seen by punching in Zip Code 28402 (Wilmington, North Carolina) into the EWG Tap Water Database.  GenX, a chemical that has been discharged into the Cape Fear River by Chemours since PFOA since 2010, is not listed, even though it’s been in the center of a huge topic of conversation for the past 2 months in the local media.

Why Is The “Health Guideline” Different Than The “Legal Limit?”

The two different thresholds use different criteria.  For example, the “Health Guideline” cited by EWG for carcinogens is defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer, while the “Legal Limit” refers to the MCL which is the limit that triggers a violation by EPA.  The OEHHA's criteria are established by toxicological techniques, while the EPA limits are negotiated through political channels.  We wrote an article that addresses this topic in much more detail for those who are interested.

Why Am I Just Learning About This Now?

The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act requires municipalities to make water quality test data public in Consumer Confidence Reports.  These reports are required to talk about the water's source, information about any regulated contaminants found in the water, health effects of any regulated contaminant found above the regulated limit, and a few other things.  As discussed before, the data in the EWG report use different criteria than the EPA, and it's hard for people to make sense of what's what.  

Are The Data Correct If My Water Comes From A Private Well?

No.  The EWG Tap Water Database only has data for municipal tap water.  Private wells are completely unregulated, and there's no requirement to conduct testing.  If you'd like us to dig into our additional water quality databases to help you understand likely contaminants in your private well, we're happy to do so.  We don't offer testing services, but we're happy to help you find an accredited lab in your area, give advice on which tests to run, and help you interpret the results!  We offer this service for free.

What About My City's Water Quality?

Hydroviv makes it our business to help you better understand your water.  As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support!  Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters.  Reach out by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!

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